Katsumi was born in a time of political turmoil. Her mother, 佐藤 日南女 Sato Hiname was a poor peasant, working in the Edo period of japan in Azumidaira, under the rule of the Mizuno clan. She was a young woman at 19 when she met Ares. He was dressed like a proper solider and displayed many skills in conflict. Hiname fell in love very quickly. But their love was like a storm, passionate and destructive, but passing very quickly. They left their ways and Hiname became engaged and married another man in the village. She kept her love affair with Ares secret. A few weeks after the wedding, Hiname found out she was pregnant. Hiname and her husband both thought the baby was theirs.
The pregnancy was long and difficult. Hiname died a few days after giving birth, and her husband was left to care for her daughter, named Katsumi. 阿部 二郎 Jiro gave Katsumi his name, Abe.
Katsumi and her father lived a simple but fulfilling life. Everyone in the village was close to one another and looked out for each other. Katsumi grew up well-loved. Jiro was a good father and always looked out for her. When she was little, the women of her village started to teach her Tantōjutsu (短刀術), skill with knife. It was common for noble women at the time to know self-defense, and a village woman was a servant in a noble’s household when she was younger and learned it, and then learned it to others in her village. When Katsumi was 7 she found a strange colored kaiken (懐剣) outside her door. It was 25 cm long and double edged. Not of Katsumi’s knowing, it was a gift from Ares, and it was made of celestial bronze. Katsumi decided to always carry this with her. It was not ornamental, but it was special, and she kept it on her always but never using it. She used normal steel blades when practicing. Katsumi had no formal schooling. She was alright with this, because school bored her. When she tried to read the words would jump on the page and she could not sit still. She liked to play outside and tumble with the other kids. When she became older the women of her village began to teach her embroidery and how to cook. She found this boring. She only wanted to fight and play outside. Katsumi was known as the peacekeeper in her village. When people fought loudly, Katsumi was known for her cool head and thinking. That was only when the fighting was loud. When Katsumi was 9, there came a riot that destroyed her town.
Azumidaira at that time, was part of the Matsumoto Domain under the control of the Tokugawa shogunate. For the past years, there were poor crops and bad winters. The farmers in Azumidaira, including Katsumi’s father, suffered of this and many people starved. There was much poverty, so much that children were sold, and newborns killed to prevent needed food. Heads of the village tried to help but were punished for it. In the fall season of 1686, the domain lords had taxes rise to an almost 70%. Unsure of what to do, their village leaders invited 12 trusted farmers to secret meetings held in a shrine to discuss how they would survive. Katsumi’s father was one of them. They decided to appeal to the magistrate, although it was illegal.
It started peaceful, but when word spread the farmers were appealing, thousands of people flocked to the domain lord’s castle. After days of unrest, papers were signed in response to favorable decrease the tax, and the people went home. Yet, a month later the men and they were arrested. Under strict laws, the domain government failure to control an uprising meant that the domain lord should loose power. They decided to suppress the uprising. The leaders and men were arrested, the documents taken, and every man and their male family were executed without trial, including children. Katsumi was safe as she was a female, but her father was not. 11 of the farmers and the leaders were taken south from the castle to Idegawa to be executed. Katsumi was ordered to stay behind by her father but did not listen. She left in the night and went to Idegawa. She was hidden as she witnessed her father’s execution in tears, but she could do nothing about it. Not then, she knew. It would not be smart to attack now. But she wanted revenge and she would get it.
She made her way to the village and packed a bag, sold all her possessions and started for Edo. She dressed as a boy to avoid harassment and found her way over the months in Edo. She had walked long distances, and climbed on carts when she could She had enough money from selling everything that she was able to make it, but slowly.
Edo was very different from where she grew up. It was urban and loud, and there were lots of people. She was scared, but fought on. By the grace of Ares she found her way to a martial arts school. When she went in, she saw a woman practicing with a sword. The woman asked who she was and they talked. The woman was a follower of Sasaki Rui (佐々木 累), a famous, odd dressed female samurai warrior who was an expert in kenjutsu and opened a martial art school in Edo ages ago. She had died without marriage or children, but she had trained many girls in her school and when she died the school went to one of her most trusted students, Ai Shishime ( 志々目愛) who had been running the school ever since. Ai was old woman but was still fierce. She listened to Katsumi’s story and decided to teach her the ways of Onna-bugeisha (女武芸者 the female martial artist. Katsumi was to work for the school and do things like clean and repair the school and in exchange Ai would teach her and give her a place to stay.
These days were the happiest and the worst of Katsumi’s life. In the morning she woke before the sun did and cleaned, practiced she made breakfast and ate with Ai. Ai would teach her for a few hours and then teach the other classes. Katsumi would do her chores and then practice all afternoon and into the dusk. Then they would eat together again, and Ai would teach Katsumi again. Katsumi loved being able to fight everyday, but the traing was hard on her body. Her toes would bleed, her fingers would break, but she kept trying. She was going to kill the lord who killed her father, and she had to be the best at it to kill Nakatsukasa-no-sho (中務少輔), the lord of the domain who ordered the executions.
Ai tried to teach her Bushido 武士道, the way of warriors. It was the only way Katsumi would find peace. Killing a lord was temperamental and rash, no matter how much she planned. Ai taught Katsumi 仁, jin, compassion. The warrior becomes strong through hard work and is not like most people. They develop power that must be used for good. Things like hate and revenge have no place in Bushido. Katsumi had to accept that, or she would not gain the power she desired.
This went on for a few years. Then Katsumi was 12 and she was attacked by a monster. She had been on an errand for Ai, digging up vegetables to eat for later, when she heard a growling from behind her. Katsumi turned around and saw a dog with two heads. It growled and lunged at her. Katsumi had only the knife that she had found so many years ago on her doorstep and whipped it out. Her training made the kill easy and the dog dissolved into dust. Katsumi was confused and scared. She decided not to tell Ai about it. It had been a normal rabid dog she told herself and she had just seen things.
When Katsumi was 13, she was attacked yet again. This time by a giant scorpion. Once again, she was on her own in a small field practicing with her sword when it appeared. It charged directly at her and she dodged it. She withdrew her knife and tried to stab it, only for its hard skeleton to weaken but not collapse. She drew back, trying to think of what to do. She picked up a rock and threw it at the beast, and it spun to face her. When it did, she noticed that there was no armor on the belly. She did not have anything long range so she would need to get close. She was a child, but she was well-trained and a daughter of Ares. She could do it. She got close to it and rolled, desperately trying to stab its underside. She managed to wound it, but the scorpion managed to bite into her arm painfully. There was a lot of blood and some crunching noises, but Katsumi did not give up. She stabbed again and again as her arm was mangled. Finally, the Scorpion turned to dust and she was left alone.
Katsumi rushed back to the school, barely hanging on to life. She fainted as Ai ran to her side. The next time she woke up fully, she was on her mat at the school. Ai was next to her and explained what had happened. Katsumi’s arm was destroyed beyond belief and when the doctor came, they had to cut it off. Katsumi looked down and saw that her arm was gone below her elbow on her right hand. Ai asked her how it happened, and Katsumi made up a story about a horse going out of control.
Katsumi was so angry. She had been training for so long only for this to happen. Ai tried to assure her, but Katsumi was now more furious. She was going to kill the lord, no matter what happened. It took months for her to get used to having no arm, but she kept going. She soon figured out a way to fight one-handed, determined to avenge her father’s death.
When she was 14, she was attacked once again. It was Stymphalian Birds. She fought them off by accident. When she saw the bird flocking at her and they chased her, she ran down a busy market street and, distracted, went headfirst into a food stand. The stand collapsed onto the one next to it like dominoes and made so much nose and clanks that the birds left without bothering her. It was lucky.
The day Katsumi turned 15, she left the school and Ai. She made her way to Matsumoto castle where the Nakatsukasa-no-sho was. The domain lord, Mizuno Tadanao (水野忠直), was throwing a celebration for his son’s 13 birthday, the day he became an adult. There was enough people in the castle and around it that she could sneak in. Over the years of living in Edo, Katsumi had made friends with a odoriko ("dancing girls"). Odoriko are teens who were expensively trained as chaste dancers for hire. It was popular and high-class to have them entertain private homes of upper-class samurai and lords (this is before Geisha but the style was similar). Katsumi convinced her friend to help her sneak into the castle as a performer.
It was a success. Katsumi sneak in with the dancers and fled to the other part of the castle to find the lord. She went into the lord’s quarters and found not the lord, but his son. The son looked scared and an ugly idea came into Katsumi’s head. Instead of killing the lord, why not the son? The lord would have to live with the grief that she lived with. The boy was spoiled and lazy, he could easily be killed. But then Katsumi paused and remembered what Ai had tried to teach her about Bushido. Righteous, 義, gi. This would not be justice; it was cruel. Katsumi spoke to herself. “Believe in justice, not from other people, but from yourself.” She lowered her sword, unable to kill the son. But the son did not know this, and he called for the guards as he was now not at sword point. The guards came rushing, and Katsumi tried to flee, but she was cut off by the guards. She killed a few of them and wounded others, but she was only one girl against what seemed an army.
She was given a deep, slashing blow to her chest and she fell, bleeding out. In the chaos, the guards incorrectly think that there was another assassin, since a girl could not have done this alone. They knew she was dying and left her there, bringing the son to safety.
She lay on her back, her breathing rough and harsh. She was dying. Tears made her face. She was crying but not because she was sad, but because she was frustrated. She realized her whole life was spent on avenging her father and she did not have anything to show for it. The only friends she made were to help her get to this point, and Ai was the only person she loved. She would not even be married. She thought of all the people in her village and all the time she wasted on revenge and she cried out to the gods, to the sky, to anyone to give her aid, so she could live for herself, not for ideas. Ares heard her pleas. She was a favorite child of his and her skill with a sword was only one example of his favor. He saw the warrior in her and took pity. As she lay dying, he took her and put her to rest, keeping her safe. That was over 300 years ago.
And 300 years is a long time to heal.
With Ares’s aid, and the sleep, Katsumi healed. In the modern world, Ares decided to bring Katsumi back to the land of living (for what reason, no one knows, not even Katsumi). He transformed her back to herself, but there is only so much he can do. The scars from her failed assassination were there and she was still missing an arm. Ares arranged an automaton (is this the word for the replacement arm??) arm for her and told her the truth about himself and the Greek gods, and her parentage. He told her she was going to Camp Half Blood.
At first Katsumi was scared, but she took the news with what most Ares children do, with courage. She was doubtful at first, but Ares showed her New York City and how modern it was. Ares gave her some rudimentary books on English with simple writing from Japanese to help her figure out he language. Katsumi had aged while she asleep, but not much. Katsumi supposed she was about 17. Ares dropped her off at Camp Half Blood only a few hours after Katsumi woke up, and that is where her new story begins.